Now nearing its 20th anniversary, free-to-play space MMORPG Eve Online is turning over a new leaf with the launch of Eve Evolved, a broad initiative aimed at improving core elements of the play experience. The latest Eve Online update begins this transformation, developer CCP Games says, and a big part of what’s new in this patch is aimed at appealing to new players – and at softening Eve’s decades-long reputation for being a difficult game to get into.
When you start a new pilot – a ‘capsuleer,’ in Eve terminology – your first move is generally to start taking jobs from several beginner NPC career agents. Each one provides a string of missions designed to introduce Eve’s various career paths. Agents will show new players the ropes when it comes to being an enforcer, industrialist, or explorer, with several solo missions to complete that take place in instanced single-player ‘dungeons’ in nearby space.
The Eve Evolved update introduces a stunning graphical overhaul to these areas, filling the once sparse sectors with forests of asteroids and swirls of cloudy particle matter. Space stations are ringed with dust, and the faraway nebulae are significantly crisper, thanks to a high-res remaster of these celestial bodies.
Here’s the trailer, which provides some nice before and after comparison shots:
Eve Evolved is more than a new lick of space paint and new asteroids, pretty as those are. The update also launches the AIR Career Program, which makes the onboarding process a bit more freeform while remaining informative. Rather than simply issuing linear strings of missions, the new AIR Career Program offers lists of various recommended activities based on which career path a new player has elected to explore. These will send new capsuleers out into the populated areas of space, where they can progress their careers alongside more experienced players just by doing ‘normal Eve stuff.’
“It’s all about getting people to undock,” Bergur Finnbogason, Eve Online’s creative director, explains to us. “The more people that are undocked, the more fun you have: flying with others, shooting others, accidentally blowing up nice things that other people have accidentally undocked… It’s great content, and it’s great fun. So that is the key.”
This new approach couples with other changes CCP has introduced to the new player experience in Eve Online, like the skill planner system introduced in 2021, and the new cinematic opening mission.
What’s more, conversations with career NPCs now take place in the improved Photon UI, which features a ‘compact mode’ that can be used on specific windows (as explained over on Eve Online’s official site).
Plenty in the latest update will appeal to old-timers, too. CCP has retuned many game sounds, so that mixing is better when multiple ships are present in the same scene. Ships have gotten updates to their level of detail and texturing, and textures stream in faster and more smoothly. The upshot is a game that looks and sounds noticeably better now than it did last week.
“Public perception is the most difficult thing to change,” Finnbogason says. “These ideas about Eve being hardcore, Eve being ruthless, they’ve become myths. And for many, many, many years, we believed all these myths! We lived by them. There was even a marketing campaign at one point that was like, ‘Eve is so difficult you can’t even play it.'”
But Finnbogason says recent studies CCP has done have forced the company to reevaluate the game – sure, there’s still the vicious PvP wars and the cut-throat inter-factional politics that surround them, but there’s more to it than that.
“I think with the ‘friendship machine‘ research, we had to eat our hat, massively,” he says. “Like 80% of our players view themselves as helpers, 95% of sessions in single player are preparation for multiplayer.”
Eve Evolved isn’t a single update, and it’ll continue throughout the rest of the year. As hinted at Fanfest in Reykjavik, it’ll also involve some new story arcs – some of which are already burbling up in remote star systems in New Eden.